I’m sharing insights from Jennifer Woofter, chief-consultant at Strategic Sustainability Consulting. Interesting perspective in addressing the management of change which can often be much larger than the green-change initiative.
Change can be difficult. Whether it’s a shift at work or in your personal life, embracing change can be a challenging issue for many people. For companies moving toward greening the workplace, it’s key that they remember that even small changes can result in small stressors to employees. It’s important to recognize the added stress and think from employees’ perspectives during the transition. Organizations that are working to be more adaptive and innovative may find that the resulting culture change becomes a huge roadblock to their efforts as employees resist or respond to the stress.
Innovation and change require leaders and employees alike to embrace new behaviors, which may initially seem antithetical to existing corporate culture. When making such dramatic shifts, it’s vital that leadership understands it’s impossible to dictate optimism, trust, conviction or creativity and consider the needs of everyone in the company.
With that in mind, the entire team should work together to establish a joint purpose and utilize internal efforts to make sure everyone on the team is onboard before changes begin.
One of the best ways to motivate employees, particularly during a transition is praise. Praising people not only motivates them, it also encourages and inspires them to do even better.
If you are helping to lead a cultural movement toward a greener workplace, consider these tips:
1. Frame the issue in a way that will excite your employees and motivate them to action. In order to engage your team’s commitment you have to inspire a desire and responsibility to change. A good organizational purpose calls for the pursuit of greatness in service of others and asks employees to be driven by more than simply personal gain.
2. Demonstrate quick wins that can show how actions toward change are working. Instead of simply declaring the culture shifts you want to see, highlight examples of the actions you expect to see more of in the company.
3. Create safe havens. If you intend for individual to act differently, you might find that changing their surroundings in order to support new behaviors to be incredibly helpful. Outposts and labs are often built as a way to give people a safe space to embrace new beliefs.
4. Embrace symbols that will help create a feeling of solidarity and demarcate who your employees are and what they stand for to the outside world. Symbols can help define the boundary between “us” and “them” for movements and can be as simple as a T-shirt, bumper sticker, or button supporting a general cause, or more elaborate like a new corporate brand identity. Internally and externally, such an act can reinforce a message of unity and commitment — that an entire company stands together in pursuit of a singular purpose.
It’s important to remember that even with the best guidelines, and the best intentions, change isn’t easy. While harmony tends to be most people’s preferred environment at work, a moderate amount of friction should be considered positive during a transition. Creating a culture shift with a complete absence of friction probably means that very little has actually changed. So explore the places where change faces resistance in your office. These areas may indicate where the dominant organizational design and culture need to evolve.
And culture change can only happen when people take action. While articulating a mission and changing company structures are important, keep on tackling the tough issues after you’ve shown people the change you want to see.